First let me say this is an amazing bit of technology, it’s the future here today. The MAD Gaze X5 is, in effect, a computer attached to the side of your head with the display in the corner of your eye. I have no doubt that this is how we’ll all be working at some point in the future.
That said, reviewing this piece of kit right now is tricky, because it’s not the sort of thing you’re likely to use in casual use and as a review copy: I don’t really have a serious use-case for it.
In serious use you’d be able to, for example, hands-free refer to a manual while doing a task. Or to have directions hover in front of you while navigating the streets. Or have a translation appear when looking at a street sign. All these things are possible right now, but once we tried them out for interest we had no real need to invest the time to get the device running to its full potential. Trying them out demonstrated how clever this is and that this sort of mixed reality is the future – but also showed that in this incarnation an investment of time is required to getting things running smoothly.
As applied today there are some limitations. The device is amazingly light, but still too heavy to attach to a light pair of glasses. The touch controls and voice are clever, but just unreliable enough (at least without training) to be frustrating. The miniaturisation that puts all this into something on the side of your head is awesome, but it did get noticeably warm at times. None of this is a killer issue if you have a use-case for the device, but they were all noticeable.
The MAD Gaze X5 comes in a neat package. There’s the core device and the wherewithal to either attach it to a pair of standard glasses – the glasses do need to be solid, my lightweight glasses couldn’t handle the added weight. However there is an included headband so you can use the device independent of glasses. While the device is relatively small the tiny screen is clearly noticeable as it hangs in front of your eye and the light gives the user a distinctly cyborg look. If you wore it down the street, people are going to notice.
Setting it up was easy; although we hit a couple of points where there seemed to be some awkward phrasing in the instructions, it soon became apparent where we were going. Perhaps the most annoying part was having to create an account with unnecessary questions – why do you need to reveal your sex just so you can use the device?
Once set up there are a set of simple controls to navigate through the apps and work with what you can see. It was all very straightforward. And the result was a screen floating in front of your eye with always on access to information. Overall we were really impressed.
Augmented reality is going to be the future and the Mad Gaze people are playing solidly in that space; arguably with more success in creating an affordable, accessible product than Google or Micorsoft have yet managed. It was great to have a glimpse of that future today.
However, I’m not running out and buying one of these any more than I would be getting a set of Google Glass – although not for any of the reasons you might think. The shiny new future presented by devices like the X5 and Google Glass come with one enormous limitation for people like me. You see they all attach to the right hand-side of your head – and I’m blind in my right eye. The future is not yet made for cyclops.
Thanks to the nice people at Mad Gaze and Expansys for the chance to try the X5 out. And in case you are wondering much of the hands-on part of this review was outsourced to GiS’s teenage spawn who do have two functioning eyes.